Ever since Dreamworks Animation announced their line-up for 2009-2012 earlier this year, there seems to have been a distinct lack of info coming out about arguably their biggest upcoming film, the fourth installment in the highly successful Shrek franchise, this time entitled Shrek Forever After (previously Shrek Goes Fourth). More focus has been placed on the spin-off film, Puss In Boots, particularly with voice star Antonio Banderas giving us some insight into what characters will appear in the movie, etc…

However, today, thanks to USA Today, we have our first look at Shrek Forever After, as well as the first in-depth synopsis of the film. Unfortunately the image isn’t high-res, or even that big of a size, but it nonetheless give us our first look at the film which may or may not be highly-anticipated after the critical failure that was Shrek the Third. Here’s the synopsis, as well as the image from the fourth Shrek:

“After rescuing a princess, getting hitched and fathering triplets, Shrek is feeling over-domesticated. ‘He has lost his roar,’ says director Mike Mitchell. ‘It used to send villagers running away in terror. Now they run to him and ask him to sign their pitchforks and torches.'”

“To regain his ogre mojo, he strikes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin, the wee troublemaker who popped up briefly in Shrek 2 and 3. Of course, the pact goes awry and Shrek must confront what life would be like in Far Far Away if he had never existed. That translates into Donkey being forced into cart-pulling duty, fat and lazy Puss in Boots trading his sword for a pink bow and the underhanded Rumpelstiltskin ruling the kingdom.”

The film is being described as the, “Brothers Grimm meets It’s A Wonderful Life,” the latter being the whole “see what life would be like without him” aspect for Shrek. That idea I must admit fits quite well with the whole fairy tale universe of Shrek. And I like that they’re making more use of Rumpelstiltskin this time around (who’s being voced by Walt Dohrn and NOT Paul McCartney as has been falsely reported), after he made brief appearances in the second and third films.

Shrek and Rumpelstiltskin

As usual with the Shrek franchise, the fourth will see some new characters be introduced: Kathy Griffin and Flight of the Conchord‘s Kristin Schaal are voicing a couple of witches who hunt ogres, and Mad Men‘s John Hamm is voicing an underground resistance group leader who’s described by director, Mike Mitchell as, “the best-looking ogre you’ve ever seen.” I wonder if Hamm was chosen for his looks on that one…

Will this be the final Shrek film? The name seems to suggest so, as does the post over at USA Today containing the above image and synopsis. However, there’s been rumblings that a fifth installment might follow this one, and generally there’s too much money to be made for the studio to not at least consider doing another. Once people stop going to see them, that’s when the studio will look elsewhere and stop making them.

Along with the first image and synopsis, we also learn that we’ll get our first look at a trailer for Shrek 4 before Avatar on December 18th. Although I imagine if you are already planning on seeing Shrek 4, a trailer isn’t really needed to motivate you.

What do you think of the first image and the synopsis for the fourth Shrek? Are you looking forward to another installment – or, like me, are you sick of all the pop culture referances and countless celebrity character voicing?

Shrek Forever After hits regular and 3D (which is a franchise first) theaters on May 21st, 2010.

Sources: USA Today (thanks to Collider)